Gaming My Way

04 Dec

Button Mashers Always Lose

Ok, so that’s not entirely true. However, the vast majority of their victories in most games are against other button mashers. If you think button mashing is a winning strategy in your favorite game, you’re wrong unless you happened to pick up one of the few games (which I haven’t actually come across yet) that don’t require any strategy. If that’s the case, it might be time to find a new favorite game though.

The two games I most commonly hear that button mashing is a winning strategy in are the Soul Calibur series and the Super Smash Bros. series. In Soul Calibur, there’s always someone who thinks button mashing with Maxi will allow them to beat anyone except another button mashing Maxi. And in Smash, there’s always someone saying “I can button mash and beat anyone!” My response to any of these people in any game I’m familiar with: Bring it on! Otherwise, if they’re adamant, I’ll learn the game, then play against them in it.

I then proceed to win game after game against them, always most of our matches, usually all of them. At that point, some get irritated, and others begin to realize that the game is much deeper than they thought. After that, they learn to play a bit, and soon enough, I have some real competition from them. I’m actually not that good at fighting games after all, so it’s easy for people to catch up once they realize they just need to put in a little effort. Some people seem to think I’m really good at fighting games, because I can beat most people I play against, but that’s simply because they haven’t really learned the game or gotten past the button mashing works stage. Against people who know the game, I usually lose as much as I win, and in local tournaments, it’s common for me to lose in the first or second round.

Now, if I can win so much against anyone using this “strategy” of button mashing, it seems to me that it’s not a very good “strategy” after all. And, if you think about it for a minute, that only makes sense. Who’s more likely to win after all: someone who randomly presses buttons and hopes for cool attacks, or someone who knows which attacks he’s about to do, presses the buttons to do them, and knows how to bring out any attack in the game whenever he wishes to bring it out? My vote is for the second person. He can react intelligently to any situation that comes up, or can at least attempt to do so, while the button masher has to press buttons and hope that he gets the right option. Playing intelligently is going to trump wildly flailing and hoping.

Now, that doesn’t mean some games, or characters within certain games, aren’t more friendly to button mashers than others. Some characters do work moderately well when a player button mashes, and you can even make it through a lot of single player modes and a fairly high difficulty setting via button mashing using these characters or playing these games. I think this helps reinforce the illusion that button mashing works, since against computer opponents, it actually does work sometimes. Against a human player though, it won’t if the human player knows what he’s doing. Also, the button mashing player still might land a number of hits on the human opponent who knows how to play. The button masher just won’t end up with a victory against this opponent.

I think the reason newer games are designed in this fashion is likely for two reasons. First, if you can win single player by button mashing, then almost anybody can win single player. This means there will be lots of happy players because they got to beat the game, winning is fun to most people. The second reason is that button mashing being effective is a side effect of making the game more accessable and commands for various moves easy to execute. For instance, Super Smash Bros. has a very intutive system with two attack buttons, which are then modified simply by pressing in any direction on the analog stick. This makes it very easy to perform any move in the game, which makes button mashing easier than it would be in a game like Street Fighter, which has more complicated commands for special attacks.

This accessability is a good thing though. It makes it much easier for players to learn the basics and get into learning strategy and tactics for the game. Basically, the game becomes much more about thinking “which move is appropriate here” instead of “I don’t know if I can do the button presses for this move, but I know it’s the move I should be doing.”

Button mashing isn’t bad as a stage of learning. It’s one of the easiest ways to experiment and find out how to do things. After that point, you need to keep learning though. Pay attention to what you’re mashing, and eventually you’ll remember how to do particular moves. Eventually, you’ll learn the system behind the moves, and which ones are effective to use in which situations. Then you can apply this knowledge to surpass the stage of button mashing, and begin playing the mind games that fighting games involve. It’s much more fun that way, and winning against people who know what they’re doing is far more rewarding than button mashing to victory against other button mashers.

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